Fight to lift drilling moratorium isn’t about partisanship politics

As Louisiana prepares to enter its third month fighting the largest man-made disaster in our nation’s history, the last thing we need is a moratorium on offshore drilling that could result in thousands of workers being laid off and would cripple our state’s economy. That’s why Gulf Coast elected officials are working together in a bipartisan way to strike a balance.

This fight isn’t about partisanship or politics. In Louisiana, it’s about the very health of our economy.

Moratorium supporters say a temporary halt in drilling is necessary to ensure rig safety. But Louisianans know the problem isn’t drilling itself. The problem is companies like BP and the government agencies charged with regulating them that have acted act irresponsibly. They have cut corners, allowed laws to be broken and disregarded the safety of their workers and the environment in a quest for ever-lower costs and ever-higher profits.  

The reality is that a moratorium — however temporary or well-intentioned — will deliver a body blow to a Louisiana economy that is already severely threatened by the indefinite shutdown of large areas of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing.

Fully 17 percent of the jobs in Louisiana are directly tied to the oil and gas industry, and oil has a $65 billion annual impact on Louisiana. In the Third Congressional District that I represent, 60 percent of the residents of Terrebonne Parish are employed by oil or oil-supporting companies.  Simply put, a moratorium will result in layoffs and job losses numbering in the thousands, hurting countless Louisiana working families and wrecking our economy.

That’s why last week I joined every Republican member of Louisiana’s U.S. House delegation to send a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar calling for the offshore drilling moratorium to be lifted. Last week, I joined a bipartisan group of Gulf Coast legislators to meet with Secretary Salazar and continue pressing him.

It’s why I joined in a bipartisan effort to urge the Minerals Management Service to clarify new rules and regulations that have created a de facto moratorium on shallow water drilling in the Gulf.

And it’s why I joined Louisiana’s entire Congressional delegation in requesting a meeting with President Barack Obama to discuss the harmful moratorium policy. This week’s court ruling against the moratorium is encouraging news for the tens of thousands of Louisianans whose jobs depend on the oil and gas industry. But as long as the administration is appealing the decision, the future of energy production in the Gulf is at risk.

Our message to the president is clear: End this moratorium. We’re going to keep working together in a bipartisan way to fight the economic threat posed by this misguided policy.  Thousands of Louisiana jobs hang in the balance, and this issue is too important to be consumed by politics or partisan games. Our voices need to be heard.

Rep. Melancon represents Louisiana’s 3rd District and was first elected in 2004.